clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Florida's Leon Orr sent home on bus after dispute over starting, "done" as a Gator

New, 26 comments

The strangest story of Saturday in college football was the one sparked by Will Muschamp making a common-sense decision.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Florida defensive tackle Leon Orr, a starter entering the 2014 season, left the team on Saturday after a dispute over not being placed in the starting lineup for the Gators' game at Vanderbilt, and was sent home from Nashville for Gainesville on a bus.

In that original GatorZone release, sent out about an hour before Florida's 7:30 p.m. Eastern kickoff with the Commodores, Will Muschamp said only this.

"He was more concerned with starting than being part of the team," Muschamp said.

Orr's trip then became "a trip home on a Greyhound bus" — this tweet from Pat Dooley probably helped — and a running joke during the game.

Orr kept up a running commentary prior to and during the game on Twitter, too.

Muschamp addressed Orr's dismissal in a postgame press conference after the Gators' 34-10 win over Vanderbilt. Head to 1:47 for the first exchange:

"Leon, y'know, hasn't started since the Alabama game, hasn't started all week in practice, and came to me today and wondered why he wasn't starting, and said he was gonna go home, that was his decision. I said 'You go home, you're done. You're not a Florida Gator anymore.'

Appreciate Leon and his contributions to our football program. He felt like he should be started. I thought we’ve been productive with the four guys that have been starting."

Asked if Orr was off the team, Muschamp answered in clear terms: "Yes. Exactly. He left today. He left our football team on game day."

Later in his press conference (just before the 10-minute mark), Muschamp made a veiled reference to Orr while praising Florida's offensive players for keeping up their effort despite a trying season of inconsistency, saying "They like playing football. And guys that don't, you don't want. (We'll) get rid of them guys."

Florida's head coach also explained the decision to not start Orr in detail, saying he came to Orr at a pregame meal Saturday morning and talked about the decision:

"I explained to him the situation since the Alabama game of why we’ve made a move, we’re more athletic with Jon Bullard inside. 'I like the production of the guys we have inside, you’re going to go in the second series of the game.' He said he wanted to start and he was leaving if he wasn’t starting. So that’s fine. I asked those four guys, 'Who’s better?' They all thought they were better. That’s the way it goes."

"You know, guys aren't gonna put themselves about the team. Not here."

Orr would eventually cop to making a mistake in a late-night Instagram post:

Leon Orr Instagram

As with many things on the Internet, the story — Orr decided he didn't want to play if he wasn't going to start, and took his ball and went home — became a sideline to the most interesting, joke-ready detail, Orr supposedly leaving on a Greyhound bus. (For my own edification, I checked: Next Saturday, Greyhound has two one-way trips from Nashville to Gainesville, one leaving at 5:20 p.m. and arriving at 6:10 a.m. Sunday, and another leaving at 9:45 p.m. and arriving at 1:40 p.m. Sunday.)

But that detail becoming a punchline is funny to me partly because Muschamp did the same thing to Marcus Roberson last year, after Roberson tried to sneak a woman into Florida's team hotel. Muschamp never connected Roberson to that incident by name, but Muschamp divulged that he "put (a player's) butt on a bus in Columbia, South Carolina," and Roberson was suspended for that contest for an unspecified violation of team rules.

Roberson, though, remained on Florida's roster through the end of the 2013 season, though he did not play against Georgia Southern and played only sparingly against Florida State while recovering from injuries. It certainly sounds as if Orr's career is over, at least at Florida, even though I think Orr's acknowledgement of a mistake and Muschamp's decency mean there's a chance player and coach will come to a reconcilation.

Either way, Orr's departure is not a huge loss. Expected to be a force up front for Florida this season as a fifth-year senior, Orr had played in just five of the Gators' games in 2014, missing the Tennessee and LSU games with injury and not starting against Missouri or Georgia.

He's recorded 16 tackles, two for loss, on the year, and a forced fumble, but those numbers are essentially equivalent to, say, redshirt freshman Caleb Brantley's — entering last night: 15 tackles, three for loss, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery — and Brantley has a lot more upside, with years left to play and much left to learn, than the veteran Orr.

So Muschamp had good reason not to start Orr, and great reason to let him sulk his way home to Gainesville on a bus: He was and is fungible, as is almost every other football player on a given team, and his self-interest conflicted with the team's interest in an intolerable fashion.

Cutting ties with a malcontent an hour before a road game is yet another example of significant discipline from Muschamp during his time at Florida.

And while I don't always love Muschamp's discipline decisions, I commend this one.